'Everything is Incredible': The helicopter man's faith and hope

religion | Sep 23, 2012 | By Martin Barillas

Tyler Bastian is a film maker. But he is also a teacher who instructs his high school students in ethics. And it is to this end that he made his short video 'Everything is Incredible,' which is a glimpse into a world and a man's life that provides enduring lessons.

Bastian was once a missionary serving the Church of Latter-Day Saints, not long out of high school, in Honduras. The Central American republic is nearly the poorest country in the hemisphere, matched only by the nadir that is Haiti. Honduras has a long Christian tradition: Catholic religious orders have been present since the early 1500s and have established enduring monuments to piety and their own efforts to bring Christianity to the Americas. 

The small town in Honduras where Bastian worked as a missionary, Siguatepeque, was founded in 1689, and became a center of Catholic religious activity. In the 1800s, it became the see of the bishop of Honduras. Bastian enjoyed his experience in Siguatepeque and became familiar with people throughout the area. 

In Siguatepeque, Bastian came to know Agustin, the man who would eventually become the focus of Bastian's film. In an exclusive interview with Spero News, Bastian spoke warmly of Agustin as an especially religious man who as a Catholic reads the Bible daily. And it is in Bastian's moving account that the arc of Agustin's life came be shared now with viewers all over the world. An otherwise obscure man, Agustin's story took several years to finally come to life in Bastian's film, requiring the film maker to return to Honduras.

In the interview, Bastian revealed that he met Agustin in 1998. "I was instantly drawn to his personality," said Bastian, "and the way he treats people, and to his invention - the helicopter." And it is here where Agustin's story becomes interesting. In the film's telling of Agustin's story, it is revealed that not only was he born poor in one of the poorest countries in the Americas, but he was born lame as well. Later on in life, Agustin was stricken by polio besides. While he survived the bout with the viral disease, it left Agustin with even greater difficulty with mobility. But Agustin refused to allow his physical disability to define his life.

When asked why he was drawn to AgustinBastian said in the interview it was "...because being young, being twenty-one, kind of thinking what do I want out of my life and where I want to go, and meeting Agustin and seeing his philosophy of life, it changed me. And from that moment on, I wanted everyone to know who this man is."

It took Bastian nearly 10 years to get back to Siguatepeque to shoot the film. And it the filming itself, admitted Bastian, had its challenges. Agustin lives in cramped and dark quarters, requiring considerable ingenuity in getting the shots Bastian and his collaborators wanted. The result is an intimate portrait of an extraordinary individual.

Agustin, while born poor in a poor country, nevertheless earning his living for years as a shoemaker and lived with his mother. And resembling Martin the Shoemaker of Leo Tolstoy's short story, he was notable for his generosity for those even poorer than himself. Having refused to allow his considerable disabilities and immobility to define himself, Agustin embarked some 50 years ago on what seemed even to his family as a fool's errand.

Finding scraps of metal here and there and in a garbage dump, Agustin has built what he calls his helicopter: a labor of love and hope that while it may never fly has given  wings to Agustin's soul and provided an example to those more fortunate than himself. A Catholic priest in the film admits that Agustin's helicopter may never fly but underscores the simple man's saintliness. "He will be buried in the church," says the priest in the film.

Bastian, who teaches character development in a charter high school in Utah, uses his film to kick off a year of study by his students. A powerful and moving work, Bastian's film is one that deserves much wider viewing. Agustin's perseverance and radical faith that Bastian's film captures might radically affect the character of viewers who can take Agustin's example far beyond the little town in Honduras where Bastian's own life took an indelible change.

The film has been exhibited at several festivals, including the Dallas International Film Festival and the Big Sky festival. Bastian and collaborators have founded The Rise Institute to take the lessons learned from Agustin to a wider world.

Info: Rise Institute



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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